Friday 7 January 2011

07.01. Foxes

The foxes have been very active outside my house during the night  this week. Being a typical owl myself, I can’t help hearing them when I sit late at night at my computer. Their bloodcurdling howls are the stuff of nightmares and if you have 3 or 4 foxes roaming your neighbouring streets at the same time, it can sound really eerie at times. If you have never heard the sound of the foxes, here’s a sound bite for you, just press the play button. (If you
get a message saying you need to install a missing plug-in called QuickTime, you should do that, you will need it for later posts here too.) Here is the sound for you:


Creepy, eh? Here are some facts for you: the urban red fox is exactly the same species as the country fox and they have adapted well to life in our towns and cities over the last 50 years or so. They prosper because they find plentiful food and shelter in our gardens, yards and other open spaces. Their diet is varied and will include insects and grubs, slugs, worms, small rodents, and more importantly anything that they can raid from our rubbish. They have become so successful that some estimates put the population in London at as many as 10,000 foxes. While the idea that country foxes live long and in comfort is a myth, life in town is certainly nasty, brutish and short. A fox in captivity can live for up to 14 years; in cities, few make it to their second birthday. The vast majority die on the roads. The only difference between rural and urban foxes is that an urban fox is accustomed to people. Thousands of people feed them; encourage them into their gardens and those that are not fed always find food on the streets. I read somewhere that the main source of food for a London fox is food from McDonald’s. Take a walk through any high street a late evening and see all the discarded take-away meals. They end up in the stomach of the area’s foxes before the nigh is over. These urban foxes are noticeably bolder than their country cousins, sharing sidewalks with pedestrians and raising cubs in people's back gardens. They are also slightly larger than their country cousins, a result of abundant food all year round, no starvation period through the winter and not much hunting involved finding their food.

So what about the foxes in my garden? Well, they are still here; I saw one of them this morning actually. They usually sleep in the next door garden during the night; mine is way too tidy and provides no shelter and places to hide:-) Last summer I bought a fox repellent, a powder you mix with water and spray everywhere in your garden (if you have such a small garden as I have). The solution is basically an artificial fox scent; this fools a fox into not recognising its own scent markings so it believes another fox is claiming the territory. That’s what it is supposed to do at least. I did everything according to the included instructions, and I sprayed extra well on the area around the tall tree in my garden, where the foxes used to dig every night, and then lie down to sleep during the day. The photos and piece of film below is taken the day after I sprayed the first time, only around 18 hours after spraying. Do you think this fox might have something wrong with its sense of smell??

A typical urban fox has a territory stretching across 80 city gardens. Vixens (the female fox) will have four or five cubs in the spring. I suppose we believe we are seeing more urban foxes than ever, and we probably are: in June, the cubs are now teenagers, exploring their local area and boldly going where their wiser parents dare not. By autumn, they move off in search of new territory, which is when they perish on the roads. The teenage foxes are not experienced, they have no fear. They wander into houses, go through cat flaps, steal cat food and will even sleep on the sofa. According to an article in The Guardian, urban foxes are particularly fond of schools: there are portable classrooms to nest underneath, open bins overflowing with half-eaten packed lunches and, crucially, no dogs. Foxes are fascinated by children. When they hear the children running around the playground they will sit in the bushes and watch them, captivated, although foxes do not attack children; they are curious, but as wary as any wild animal.

But, you might say, I’ve heard the story about the fox that attached the two babies...Yes, I have heard it too, and I have read other stories too. And I must admit I don’t leave my backdoor open unsupervised anymore. Not with a family of foxes in my garden/next door. One of them comes almost every day and leaves a deposit on my back door step, just as to say “I’m not afraid to come all the way up to your house”. But I am not afraid of going out in my garden either, and when I surprise one of them sleeping out there, which I have done many times, they are very quick to jump over the fence back to the neighbour’s garden and hide under the bushes. As I said; my garden is too tidy for them, there is nowhere to hide, but they like lounging there, on the grass, in full view! But I have never caught any of them inside my house, not yet.  There has been many stories over the years about foxes wandering into strange places...Foxes have sneaked into the Houses of Parliament, where one was found asleep on a filing cabinet. Another broke into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, reportedly killing some of Queen Elizabeth II's prized pink flamingos. Generally, however, foxes and city folk appear to get along. A survey in 2001 by the London-based Mammal Society found that 80 percent of Londoners liked having the animals around. Some residents even deliberately attract foxes by putting out food for them to eat. However other Londoners say foxes are pests that dig up lawns, scatter rubbish, terrify pets, and leave behind a foul scent. I think I agree with the latter group, however, once you got a group of foxes, they are there to stay it seems, because if you get them removed (for which you have to pay for), a new group of foxes will soon recognise an empty territory and swiftly move in! So, I am preparing for this year’s war with the foxes, at the moment it’s the foxes’ mating season, hence the creepy howling, and soon the vixen is going to start digging a den to have somewhere to get her cubs. I bet my garden is going to be turned over every night this spring too....Ugh!

I never knew I knew so much about foxes! Hmmm! It is a topic I didn’t need to know anything about until it became an issue 2 years ago. Well, I think I have covered most angles by now...I’m just going to finish this post by saying that this post became a bit of a technical challenge I didn’t know how to include a sound and a movie when I sat down today. If you read my post from Tuesday, about doing things I don’t know how to do...well, today I have done yet another thing I didn’t know how to do – and learned something new in the process. Put a smile on my face, it did...well, I actually said Yeeess! out loud and scared the cat so he jumped down from his sleeping place next to the monitor. I think he likes to lie there because of the heat radiating from it, and every now and then he jumps down in my lap to get a cuddle. See, I managed to sneak my cat in today too! What about another photo of him? Of course you want to...he is so lovely, isn’t he? 

This picture is from a summer a couple of years ago; if I am to post pictures of my cat on my blog mostly every day I will need to take some new of him – I am running out of good photos of him! But back to the technical challenge, well – it turned out to be rather more straight forward than I feared, a bit of old fashioned HTML hand coding, and pronto! There was the music player showing up on the page. I won’t bore you with the technical bit, HTML is for computer nerds and people like me who just find it fascinating...according to my son I’m at least 20 years too old to be a computer nerd, wrong gender and I don’t use or even own an they even wear anoraks these days?? Anyway, I actually find HTML fascinating, one of many things I find fascinating (more fascinating stuff in future posts!)... if you want to know how I managed to place the sound on my post, leave me a comment including your email address and I’ll be happy to tell you how :-)

I better end now, so I’ll swiftly finish and say thanks for listening, take care and....I’ll be back!

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